BOSTON -- Three games out. Eleven left to play. And the Tampa Bay Rays mean it when they say the next one is the most important of all.

"We are definitely playing playoff baseball right now, and we're not even in the playoffs yet," manager Joe Maddon said Saturday after the Rays beat Boston 4-3 to trim the Red Sox lead in the AL wild-card race to three games.

"I love the fact that we do have a bunch of tough guys. ... When you're playing this time of year for all the marbles, you can't be intimidated by the opponent or the venue," he said.

Ben Zobrist hit a two-run homer off Jon Lester, and Jeff Niemann pitched five solid innings. Tampa Bay posted its seventh victory in its past eight games against Boston, including two of three so far in this weekend's four-game series. The Red Sox led the wild-card race by nine games on Sept. 3.

Boston is batting .123 against Niemann, who gave up four hits in five innings, striking out six. Matt Moore pitched three innings of relief, and Joel Peralta pitched the ninth for his fourth save.

"We've got to come back and try to get another one," Peralta said. "I know we've got a tough road. I know we're chasing, and we're chasing a great team. But we're playing great this month."

Tim Wakefield faces Tampa Bay's David Price in the series finale Sunday. With a victory Sunday, the Rays would trail by two heading into the final 10 games. But they have seven of their last 11 against the first-place Yankees, and Boston has seven of its remaining games against the last-place Orioles.

"This isn't our first go-round at this," Lester said. "We've got plenty of guys in that clubhouse that have been through it. It's easier when you're coming from behind than where we're at. There's no pressure. Obviously they're doing a good job. We've just got to grind it out."